Thursday, November 17, 2016

Valley of Fire West / East Traverse - 11/16/16

Bighorn in Valley of Fire

Rock through Arch

Starting Point Vista (Prospect Trail TH)

Climbing up to Plateau
 Fifteen hikers braved today's Valley of Fire "endurance" hike called the West / East Traverse, perhaps one of the most difficult of Brian's fantastic creations. Preparing for the point to point hike, we left cars at the end point (Elephant Rock TH) and drove everyone back to the starting point (Prospect Trail TH). Joining us on today's hike was one of the Valley of Fire's Rangers, Chris, who was there on his day off to enjoy the long hike with us.

More Climbing
 We started out the dirt road and made a couple of turns ending by following a small wash up to the shadowed area in the red rocks.

Following at a Quick Pace
 The first climb up to the red rock plateau was a great scramble and we waited for everyone to make it up before proceeding.

Valley of Fire Redrock

Listening to Brian
 There was a little more climbing after that then we began zigzagging through the canyons. The rock canyons were eroded into north / south directions and since we were trying to go east, it must have been a great accomplishment to find routes through the rock. This created a lot of moderate to strenuous scrambling and all fifteen hikers were up to the task. Added to the constant scrambling was a serious pace which ran between 1 to 3 mph when we were moving. The overall average of the pace was 1.5 while factoring in the stop time of 1.7 hours.

Starting to Spread Out
 Everyone did a great job with the challenge for most of the hike. Near the end, there was a straggler or two.

Fun Spot
 The hike found its way up, down and around to the area of the paved road near Mouse's Tank TH.

Redrock Vista

Overcast Day
 The plan for a snack break every two hours put us on the rocks just above the road for the first break. At this time, our job was to "eat and drink." So, we did. Still feeling pretty strong, we had to get our muscles moving again after the break when we reached the pavement and walked up the road a short distance. At the Mouse's Tank TH, we started down into the sandy wash and hiked by the many petroglyphs in this area. The pace prevented any ogling at the ancient writings and the photog had to run to catch a photo of the very dry tank, itself.

"We go here, then there, then there."

First Snack Break

Catclaw on the Rocks

Hiking through Mouse's Tank Area
The next section of the hike was a little easier. There was a couple of ascents but nothing tremendous. A few of the special rock formations were pointed out as we passed. Next, the route ascended concertedly. Up, up and up. This section took a lot out of us but we were still keeping pace. At the top of all of this, we took our second break. This break was a little quieter! Eat and drink ... and eat some more ... and drink some more.

Petroglyphs in Mouse's Tank Area

A Few of the Interesting Rock Formations

Following Brian

A Pep Talk
 Along the way, Brian was very encouraging to those of us who were trying not to show how much we were struggling. Of course, many hikers were going out of their way to find more interesting routes. Yes, there are some very strong men and women in our midst. A couple of times, Brian would stop and wait for the last hikers to catch up. Then, he would give us a pep talk. It was a great chance to breathe and rest our muscles.

Peeking out of the Redrock
 As we hiked through the next area, we could see Silica Dome then Painted Pinnacles through the rocks in passing.

Calm before the Storm
 Although the pace increased here, this section was like the calm before the storm!

Down into the Canyon

Painted Pinnacles through the Rocks
As we enjoyed the respite, we saw a male bighorn running off in the distance. We turned a corner and there was a female standing profile on the rocks, again pretty far away. When we got to where she was standing, she was nowhere to be seen. This was an area that we have seen several bighorns in the past as well. They seem to love living in the Valley of Fire. There is also evidence of coyotes among the rocks. A mountain lion or two are probably about, also.

Male Bighorn on the Run
  What goes up must come down! So, down, we went.

Down, down, down ... and Down
 At the bottom of this long descent, we crossed the sandy Valley of Fire Wash.

Valley of Fire Wash

Another Pep Talk
Up again, on very tired legs. The sandy wash and rock scrambling was difficult again and the climbs seemed steeper. When we were finally able to see the cars at the TH in the distance, we opted to go around the last official climb of the route and use the sand dunes to finish. As we hiked the last mile, the gusty wind whipped up. Time to go home. Most hikers made a strong finish but all hikers finished! What a great endurance hike!

8.5 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 5.75 hours

Difficult Scrambling on Tired Legs

There are the cars!

Circling around in the Dunes to Finish

Official Route Indicated.

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